Potentially Planted Evidence, Memory Lapses, and Unwanted Memorabilia: the Latest from the IRobot-Robotic FX Files

10/1/07Follow @bbuderi

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Ahed said that he and Hill drove from Robotic FX headquarters to his parents’ home, where he got some personal effects, and then to Hill’s apartment in Chicago, some 45 minutes away. Along the way, Ahed said, they spotted someone following them in a dark-colored vehicle: “It was a very different situation. I believe he started out by following us and then somehow we got behind him and we followed him.”

At that point in the questioning, Cordell switched gears:

Q. Did you dispose of anything after leaving your office but before arriving at Miss Hill’s apartment on the evening of the 17th, early morning of the 18th?

A. I just don’t remember. It was so late at night and I was very frightened by someone following us around that I just don’t remember. I don’t remember much until after the breakfast really, the next morning.

Q. So you just—there’s just a blank period in your recollection spanning how long?

A. From the time after we were followed to when I woke up in the morning and we went to breakfast with Kimberly’s mother and then seeing the trunk open [Editor's note: more on this later], was really like the next real memory that I’ve had.

Cordell tried again on the second day of the hearing in Boston, Monday, September 24:

Q. You have a blank in your memory, sir, from the time you left your parent’s home late on the evening of August 17 until you showed up at breakfast with Ms. Hill and her mother the next morning, correct?

A. The only thing I can remember that night [is] being followed and following the follower. So after that we went home, I went to sleep and woke up and went to breakfast.

Q. Well, you can’t tell us whether or not you disposed of anything on the night of August 17, can you?

A. I don’t believe so.

Q. You just don’t recall one way or the other, correct?

A. I don’t recall.

Q. So, it’s possible that you did dispose of additional material on the evening of August 17, correct?

A. I don’t know.

On the Dumpster and Destroying Data

The morning of August 18th, Ahed said, he and Hill went to breakfast with Hill’s mother. After breakfast, the trio went to an office supply store to buy a paper shredder, then headed back to Hill’s apartment. As Ahed recalled in his September 19 deposition: “…on the way to her house, just right before her house, there’s a dumpster… So I said, Kim, stop, I want to dispose of some things.”

Ahed recounted how Hill and her mother remained in the car while he discarded some commercial software disks, some books—almost all of the items in the duffle bag except his data disks. Why didn’t he discard those in the dumpster as well, Cordell asked? “Because those disks did not have any security,” Ahed replied. “Anybody can put a disk in a computer and get my files. And that’s why I saw fit to shred the disks to prevent anyone from reading my designs or stealing my designs.”

After the visit to the dumpster, Ahed said, he went to Hill”s apartment and began shredding the disks. He had 100 or more of them. Some 20 or 30 disks into the job, the shredder jammed, and he returned to the store to get a more powerful model, as well as a hard-drive erasing program. He finished the disk shredding, and then (Ahed said probably on the next day, Sunday, August 19, but that he wasn’t sure of the timing), began erasing the hard drive of an old laptop computer that he had owned since his college days. He said the computer held some Robotic FX software, as well as his own personal financial data—and that he performed seven overwrites of the hard drive.

Ahed said he also erased three USB external hard drives full of backup data he had taken from the Robotic FX office, and, later, used the scrubber program to “clean the free space” on another personal laptop, as well as his office computer.

On the Possibility of Planted Evidence

Ahed admitted to throwing out almost everything iRobot’s private detectives found in the dumpster that seemed to relate to the case. Items recovered included a box for a paper shredder, a box marked SolidWorks with a UPS label bearing a Massachusetts shipping address, a VHS video cassette tape marked “IS Robotics SWARM 2000.’” (IS Robotics was the original name of iRobot.) But there was one thing in the dumpster that Ahed specifically denied putting there, a tool used to weld together sections of robot tracks.

A fixture of this type was found in the dumpster by iRobot’s detectives. The line of questioning pursued by iRobot’s attorneys seems to suggest they believe it is based on an iRobot design. In his September 24 testimony, Ahed admitted to using a similar fixture in welding together his robots’ tracks, but says he and a toolmaker designed had that tool. What’s more, he denied that the one found in the dumpster was his.

Q. This is one of the items that was found in the dumpster in the block next to Ms. Hill’s apartment, correct? … Next Page »

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • Jeremy

    Wow! The plot thickens, Keep it coming…!

  • http://www.letterneversent.com chris sivori

    Wonder what the Vegas odds on this case are…

  • http://www.hubspot.com Dan Tyre

    this is crazy… he either stole something or he didn’t. Conspiracy theory is tough to prove.

  • karthik cmouli

    He must have stolen it all,sorry if I sound a bit judgemental here but as I read on, it seems to be more of a fairy tale than the truth. I do not think that it is possible to say that you are suffering from memory lapses for no reason whatsoever. I do not think that such things are possible, memory lapses do occur but as a result of sudden shock or as a result of an accident.
    with the shredder, and hopefully, they should be able to rebuild what was shredded and with a fingerprint or two, who did the shredding as well. It is sad but the real truth is that even the documents that we shred thinking that they have been destroyed, can actually be rebuilt from the pieces. Which is why you should always use a commercial shredder which utilizes chemical process as well in the shredding process.